Hickenlooper meets with West Slope water leaders
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Vail, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Western Slope water leaders who are negotiating a “global” water agreement for Colorado met Thursday with Gov. John Hickenlooper, who agreed with their view that water is a statewide resource.
“There’s a legitimate argument to say it’s in the best interests of Denver to use as little water as possible and to keep every drop we can in the river,” Hickenlooper told members of the Colorado River District board.
Hickenlooper, the former mayor of Denver, said he has received calls from Denver residents with large lawns who complain that conservation efforts by Denver Water have forced their water bills up by thousands of dollars a year.
“They’re irate, and they tell me Denver has the senior water rights and ask why they have to cut their use,” Hickenlooper said.
“My response is that legally, it is Denver’s water, but it’s Colorado’s water, too. You know, what makes Denver special and unique is because it’s in Colorado. And part of what makes Denver ‘Denver’ is the Western Slope economy – its ski resorts, the ranches and fruit orchards – and the Eastern Plains,” the governor said.
So he tells Denver constituents that key values of the city are enhanced by preserving the natural beauty of the whole state, including healthy rivers – which means limiting new transmountain water diversions.
River District board members thanked Hickenlooper for his recent appointments to the Denver Water board, who have shown themselves to be good listeners on Western Slope concerns and to be firmly committed to finding more ways to conserve water. That’s important because so much Western Slope water is already diverted each year across the Continental Divide to farms and cities on the Front Range.
The River District, Denver Water, Summit County, Grand County and water interests in Eagle County are negotiating what is being called a “global agreement” on those transmountain diversions and related water management.
“We appreciate your appointments to Denver Water, and we are looking forward to the rollout of the agreement,” said Grand County Commissioner James Newberry. He said the agreement should be ready for release in late April.
Meanwhile, the River District is also involved with negotiations on the Shoshone hydroelectric power plant, which holds a critical senior water right for the Colorado River that protects river flows above and below Glenwood Canyon. The plant and the water right are owned by Xcel Energy.
River District Board President Tom Sharp, of Steamboat Springs, asked Hickenlooper for help in getting Xcel involved in the discussions aimed at protecting the Shoshone water right.
“Shoshone is a small drop in their bucket,” Hickenlooper said. “They’ve got no reason not to do it.”
“Or, they’ve got no reason to do it,” Sharp said.
“Oh, but if they do, they will get to the top of my ‘Most Cherished Persons’ list,” Hickenlooper said.